Jeffrey Martin is an author and researcher who has amassed a lot of information on how to create fundamental wellbeing. He’s interviewed over 1,000 people who identify as fundamentally well, and vetted them with various psychological tests. When he was satisfied that they did indeed meet the standard, he then proceeded to study them to decipher what goes into creating fundamental wellbeing.
What he learned about them is captured in his diagram above. The grid illustrates those who are in the “normal” range of wellbeing on the left of the continuum, whereas those who he interviewed are on the right of the diagram.
He then went on to apply his learning into a course to help other people shift into fundamental wellbeing. He’s had 1000s go through the course over the years, and has had a high success rate of around 70%. This year, he created a new, shorter version of the course, offering the opportunity to shift into fundamental wellbeing in 45 days.
I heard a bit about what was involved in the course from someone I know who’d taken it, and decided to try my own 45-day experiment. I also connected up with a friend, to keep each other accountable (that was key).
Today was the last of my 45 days. I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned along the way and hope it’ll spark some new feelings of wellbeing for you as well.
1. Increased Present Moment Awareness
One of the things Martin discovered is that meditation accelerates fundamental wellbeing. There’s a lot more to his research, but, I decided to take my usual meditation practice, which is often about 20 minutes, and increase it to one hour. Although I did not meditate for a full hour every day of the 45 days, I had other meditative practices as well, such as Qi Gong, Kundalini yoga and a few longer meditations from Dr. Joe Dispenza.
Additionally, over the years, it’s been important to me to use practices to strengthen my present-moment awareness. I have done things like set timers throughout the day, or attached some practice to a meal (such as giving myself a pep talk) or most recently, put little stickers at doorways throughout my house reminding myself to come back to the now. I kept up with those usual practices.
Over the last 45 days, by increasing my meditative practices, I have noticed more attention to what I am bringing in through my senses. I have also had more capacity to source a sense of stability by noticing my senses. I cannot do this practice enough. It’s been impactful to do the longer mediations but equally important to create little cues throughout the day to bring me back to here and now.
2. More gratefulness
Martin also pulls from the research of what works to increase fundamental wellbeing from the positive psychology field. He has people going through the course do a gratitude practice, commenting on how well substantiated gratitude is in the positive psychology literature. I have known of that research as well, and have periodically done gratitude practices, like writing down 3 things I’m grateful for. I decided to write down 10 things I was grateful for each morning and a few at night. Once more, these were not every day practices, but of the many days.
Without a doubt, writing down things I’m grateful for has been beneficial and cultivated a stronger sense of appreciation overall. The wonderful thing is it seemed like gratitude became a bit of a habit: the more I noticed what I could be grateful for, the more there was to be grateful for!
As I pause to think about this for just a moment, I’m grateful that you are reading these words. Without that, I would not be motivated to write this reflection and take the learning deeper. My heart is activated as I think about our relationship. You reading now, as I’ve done myself so often with other authors, are in relationship with me writing now. I’m writing for me and for you and you are reading for you and for me. Together we are in a virtuous loop. It’s a beautiful exchange that takes place in some unnameable space-time that is neither my-now as I write this or your-now as you read this. That is appreciation! So much to be grateful for!
3. Wider Sense of Identity
Martin describes those with a strong sense of fundamental wellbeing as not identifying strongly with their “narrated self” but with a wider sense of self. By “narrated self” he means that self we have constructed in our thoughts. Those with fundamental wellbeing are able to step back more easily into that witness place and notice their thoughts and emotions and allow them to float by. This is age-old wisdom.
As a by-product of being more mindful and more appreciative, I did start to identify more strongly with a larger sense of self than the me in my various roles in life. I know I am those things and more, it’s just that during the 45 days, I felt that larger sense of me more often and in a more expanded way.
Before going into my 45-day experiment, I was looking for “permanent” wellbeing. But in preparing this article, I’ve discovered that Martin makes a key distinction between permanent vs persistent wellbeing. He uses the term persistent to describe a consistent, ongoing experience of wellbeing versus a temporary one. He doesn’t use the word permanent because the research has shown that participants experiencing fundamental wellbeing can return to their previous states. Fundamental wellbeing is not permanent, at least not for some of the people he studied. Martin defined persistent wellbeing as having continued for at least 1 year.
So, that made me realize there can be periods of time to wellbeing. How long of a period can you go noticing a state of persistent wellbeing? The 45 days created a lovely container to pay attention to, and cultivate, wellbeing with intention.
And, I have a new goal: I’d like to cultivate fundamental wellbeing for a whole year! 2021 here I come!
What about you? Want to join me? What are your experiences of what fosters fundamental wellbeing?